Monday, July 25, 2005

Interesting Visual Illusions

There are 55 visual illusions to keep you happily dizzy at this page.
The site also contains some explanations about what we learn about our visual system from these illusions.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why "Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop"?

For a plausible origin of the phrase, see this entry in the World Wide Words.

I followed the link from Cringely's fun prediction about Apple/Intel Announcement. We will see within half a year whether the prediction is true.

The Real Reason "Kentucky Fried Chicken" Became KFC

...or how politicians became too greedy. (Ha ha, is that possible?)

See here.

The Oldest Working Incandescent Light Bulb

While browsing, the Urban Legends Reference Pages, I came across this. An excerpt is below:

Today you'll find a remarkable light bulb burning bright at a fire station in Livermore, California. It hasn't been turned off since 1901.

The Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley's Believe It Or Not and General Electric agree the bulb, of unknown wattage, is the longest-living in history, despite two moves and a few power outages during its lifetime.

The Global Village (?)

You must have seen something similar to the following in your emails:

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following.

There would be:
57 Asians

21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white

30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian

30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer

It sounds kind of plausible and emphasizes the have and the have-not of the world pretty nicely, but is it true?

According to this urban legend page, there are a few inconsistencies in the numbers above. You might want to check it out before passing on the email.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Earning $1,000,000 The Easy Way*

If you are an astrologer, a psychic, or someone who can demonstrate conclusively any paranormal or supernatural power, run to James Randi Educational Foundation. They will pay you one million US dollars.

From the website:

At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval
of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."

Good luck.

*Making Elephant Soup is easy too. First, get an elephant...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Danger Danger!!!

A very scary public warning about a very dangerous substance, "Dihydrogen Monoxide"

According to the site: "Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities. Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage. Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects. DHMO is a major component of acid rain. Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns..."

Meanwhile, back in 1938, there was a very scary news report about space invaders that got quite a few people all shook up.

**in case you didn't check out the linked sites, they are hoaxes :-) Don't panic. Telling your friends about DHMO would be fun though.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Mpemba Effect (or Hot Water Sometimes Freezes Faster Than Cold Water)

In 1963, a Tanzanian student named Erasto B. Mpemba found, while making ice cream at school, that hot mix of boiling milk and sugar froze faster than the cooler mix. He told his teachers but they convinced him that his observation must have been in error.

Later, Mpemba compared the result with a friend who made and sold ice cream and found that the effect was well known in the ice cream making circle.

In 1969, Mpemba, now a highschool student, convinced a professor of physics (Dr. Denis G. Osborne) to write a paper describing the effect. Turn out that the effect was observed for millenia dating back to Aristotle's time.

The effect that hot water can freeze faster than cold water under many circumstances is now called the Mpemba Effect.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Open Questions in Physics

For physics students looking for problems for their term papers, here is a list of open questions in physics.

My favorite is "Why is there an arrow of time; that is, why is the future so much different from the past?" Come to think abou it, what is time anyway?

For more ideas for term papers in other subjects, see "List of unsolved problems" at Wikipedia.